Prime minister Rishi Sunak has accused Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of stoking a "class war" over the Labour Party's plans to add VAT to independent school fees. Mr Sunak has argued that Labour's policy fails to appreciate the aspirations of families who want to provide a better life for their children. David Walker, director of the Boarding Schools' Association (BSA), is quoted, warning that adding VAT to fees “could threaten the viability of hundreds of schools”, adding that it could “have a negative knock-on effect to the number of bursaries each school can offer to low-income families”. By Louisa Clarence-Smith, Camilla Tominey and Catherine Lough, The Telegraph.
The Guardian also covers the prime minister's comments in Politics Live with Andrew Sparrow (the item appears at 17:15).
Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), appeared across the media yesterday explaining that VAT is a tax on parents that would lead to thousands of children having their education disrupted. Ms Robinson was interviewed by LBC, Radio 4's Today programme, Sky News, LBC News, Radio 5 and Talk TV. Sky News this morning interviewed Christine Cunnliffe, head at LVS Ascot, as part of a feature on Labour's tax plans.
Schools Week reports shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has said independent schools need to "reflect on where they could be making savings", so they can cover Labour's proposed VAT on their fees for parents. Julie Robinson is quoted saying VAT is "a tax on parents: schools would be legally required to put VAT on their fees under Labour's policy". By Freddie Whittaker.
Analysis by The Telegraph has found parents of children at almost a quarter of day schools would face fees of over £30,000 under Labour’s proposed tax plans. The party's plan to impose VAT on independent school fees would see day fees at 129 of 565 secondary schools exceed £30,000 if the tax was passed on in full to parents, according to the analysis, which is based on costs for sixth form pupils in a sample of schools that have published price structures. Will Goldsmith, head of St George's School, echoes the comments of colleagues in the independent sector who are striving to keep fees as affordable as possible. Speaking to the paper, Mr Goldsmith said: “Of course we will do everything we can to keep fee increases to an absolute minimum but Labour has to understand that schools operate on fine profit margins." Presently, only 43 secondary schools charge above that threshold. By Louisa Clarence-Smith and Ben Butcher.
David James, deputy head at Lady Eleanor Holles School, is quoted in The Times in a report on school leaders' concerns over Labour's tax plans. Mr James warns: “Fundamentally, they [Labour] don’t understand the complexities of the issues. It sends a message that any charity seen to be ideologically opposed to the government of the day could be subject to extra tax. How many people would support that in practice?" Julie Robinson is also quoted, explaining that VAT on fees is "nothing to do with charitable status", rather it is a tax on parents. By Nicola Woolcock.
Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, has a letter published in The Times in which he warns that Labour is seeking to "tax independent schools' success" and that the party's policy risks undermining the UK independent sector as a brand, as well as negatively impacting the economy. Numerous other contributors have also written to the paper on the issue, raising their concerns and reactions to Labour's tax proposals.
A number of individuals have written to The Telegraph, sharing their views on the Labour Party's plans. One writes: "Does Sir Keir Starmer really believe that private schools could afford to pay VAT under a Labour government without passing the cost on to parents? Moreover, if fees do rise, how does he think the state system will cope with all the students whose parents can no longer afford private education?". Another contributor highlights the valuable cross-sector partnership work taking place between independent and state schools, warning that "no doubt this would stop if charitable status were removed, and Labour could be accused of denying opportunities to poorer pupils". The letters, in both publications, appear at the top of the page.
iNews reports that some independent schools are advising parents to use fee prepayment schemes in anticipation of a potential Labour government. By Poppy Wood.
A number of other schools in membership of the ISC's constituent associations are also mentioned across the media today and reference is made to ISC data.